The one thing I hate about shows starring families on television is how they couldn’t be further from the truth with how parents have to actually handle issues that come up within their family. Parents have these difficult conversations with their children and somehow manage to introduce the issue, conflict on the issue, address the issue and have resolution, all in 30 minutes or maybe an hour (42 minutes if you count commercial time.) They don’t show the questions the kids have days later after the conversation, or how they turn to their friends after getting information from you, to only get more incorrect information. And these tv families always seem to be able to introduce these topics in fun, quirky ways that put everybody at ease. Sure, they may try to make it seem like it’s an uncomfortable topic but a lively joke usually breaks up the serious tone and brings you back to the fact that this life-altering conversation is going to last 53 seconds.
It’s not that I watch these shows expecting them to provide me with some profound parenting tips that I have not either read or come up with myself. I guess part of me is hoping it will maybe show a clip of the parent crying in their bedroom or staring at the ceiling in the middle of the night, hating themselves. I want to know that I am not alone in my parenting mistakes. I want to see that nobody is perfect. I KNOW they aren’t, but it’s hard to convince yourself that when all of our examples seem to flawlessly make their way through the murky parenting waters. I want my kids to know that even as parents we aren’t perfect and as much as we are here to guide them through this world, we are not the definitive way.
This month, my husband and I are starting to introduce the concept to our three-year-old daughter that she is adopted by her father. She is biologically mine. Part of me is really glad we are choosing to do this now while she is so young. I feel the more we can normalize it, the less “different” she’ll feel. She has a younger sibling who is biologically both of ours, and I don’t want that to ever come in between the relationship they already have. The other part of me is terrified. Telling her in a sense means telling everyone. To be honest, a lot of people know, but these are people who are close to us and will love us no matter what. I’m nervous for the time when people judge her for my actions. It’s sad, but it happens. Even if you aren’t thinking negative thoughts, people will put distance between themselves or their children and the other child to not associate with an undesirable person or situation. I would be heart-broken if somebody treated her differently because our adoption story doesn’t necessarily have the happy theme throughout where two deserving people are finally blessed with a baby. Up until this point, she’ll have no idea that there is anything about her that sets her apart from her sibling, or any other child for that matter. And as far as we are concerned, we are blessed to have her. She has brought a lot of life into our lives.
She was the result of a one night stand. It happened during a time of a lot of despair and darkness. I was treating multiple mental health issues with alcohol and I don’t think I would have actually killed myself, but the idea had entered my head a few times as more of a “what if I wasn’t here anymore,” thought. I don’t say those things as an excuse because I take full responsibility for my actions. And although I am typing these words out for you to read, I don’t really feel as if I owe YOU any explanation. The resolution of my actions lies between my husband and myself. I can only hope to shed light on what I’ve experienced and show it’s not always a need for a relationship or wanting something different. I know this has and will change the view that many people have of me. Some use me like a FAQ section of an infidelity book. “I cheated will he know?” “Are these signs of cheating?” both questions I have been asked before. I do this to my friend all the time with medical questions. She’s a nurse, and although I know she probably doesn’t have the answer to every single symptom or photo myself or my children experience, I still like to run it by her in the off chance she has heard about it or can give me any sort of guidance. I know what people really want to say is, “please just tell me this won’t happen to me,” but I just always give my viewpoint from my experience. We’ve even had friends just quit talking to us altogether. My husband says it’s because we “grew apart,” which could really more than likely be the truth, but I can’t stop my brain from going to the “what ifs” and “if only I had…” for hours each night.
But my greatest concern is how will this make my daughter feel? What if she asks if her biological dad didn’t want her? He didn’t, but do I tell her that? At what age do we begin to help her understand the specifics of how this happened. How does she answer questions other people will ask her? How do we make sure she knows that not even one second did her daddy not ever love her or consider her his? How do we explain that even though this wasn’t because of anything she did, people will treat her differently? How will she feel when she sees people treating me differently? I meet with our counselor for the first time in February. We’ll more than likely form a plan on how we want introduce this and go from there. Sometimes I ask myself if we’re doing the right thing. Would waiting until she’s older be better or worse? We don’t know anybody that has been adopted in any kind of situation (that we know of) and haven’t really been able to hear from different perspectives on the matter. The one thing I hope to stress in our counseling is how much she was loved then, and even more now by both myself and her father.
If there were to be a show starring my family, the awkward conversations would show me just blundering through what I want to say while trying to make jokes that neither my child, nor my imaginary audience, would understand. I don’t know to handle this situation or to be honest with you, any situation we will face. These are my babies. It’s hard to picture them living in a world that isn’t anything but perfect happiness and sunshine for them, but I know I want to be honest and I want to make them feel that they can discuss anything with me. I want to set the example that the more we bring these difficult subjects to light, the less isolated they can cause people to feel. I’ve learned we all have these dark secrets lurking somewhere, constantly rearranging them to not be found, dreading the day somebody will learn them and use them against us. I try to do my best to go without judging and to show more empathy. We all need empathy. I still need it. And I’m sure as our children grow and our lives get more hectic and questions more in-depth and emotions more raw, I am going to need even more of it.
Have you or your family dealt with adoption? Whether you were aware from the beginning or discovered it later in life? How did you handle it? It’d be great to hear from people who have been through a similar experience.